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Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Bryant, Benton, Sherwood and surrounding areas

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What about our housing crisis President Obama and Governor Romney?

What about our housing crisis President Obama and Governor Romney?

We have just witnessed the last of three presidential debates in anticipation of elections now just 2 weeks away. Considering the depth of these debates and the months of political advertisements in this campaign, it is discouraging that there has not been a serious discussion about housing. As leaders, you ignore housing at our peril.

Although the economy is recognized as the single most important issue in this campaign,

The Real Costs of Halloween Home Disasters: Serial Killers, Phantasms, and Floods of Blood

Looking back at some of the ‘classic’ horror home disasters, lets estimate the home repair costs in Poltergeist, Scream, The Shining, and other horror classics.

The Shining

When little Danny Torrance saw a river of blood surging down the hallway, there’s one thing that was probably not on his mind: What’s it going to cost to clean up this mess? He was a little more concerned with evading his possessed, axe-wielding father. But the answer depends entirely on whether the Overlook Hotel was covered for flood insurance. Let’s just hope they opted for maximum blood coverage.
Disaster: Flooding

  • The average flood claim for a residence is about $33,000.
  • The average annual cost of flood insurance for a residence is $540.

Poltergeist
When considering a new home, save some money, have it inspected—and make sure it’s not on an unmarked burial ground. You’ll disrespect the dead, and as we learned in Poltergeist, phantasms can get pretty miffed. They’ll suck children into other dimensions and even push coffins through the back yard, ripping up the landscaping and inflicting serious damage.
If ghosts do turn your yard into Swiss cheese–and your house doesn’t get sucked into a void like the Freelings’–you’ll need to redo your landscaping. Consider hiring a certified landscape architect to design a plan that includes irrigation, lighting, soil conditioning, and repotting (or removing) those pesky coffins. You might also want to consider planting a few new trees which, when properly placed for shade, will save you up to $250 a year in energy costs.
Disaster: Destroyed landscaping

  • A landscape consultation costs about $100 to $150.
  • A detailed plan can run from $300 to $2,500.
  • New sod installation is 30 to 50 cents per square foot.
  • Total sod cost for the average suburban yard: $2,000.
  • Three 15-foot trees cost a total of $300 to $600.

Scream
 
Going up? When Ghostface caught this beered-up victim in the too-small cat portal of a garage door, he scored a memorable kill, but shorted out the garage door opener in the process. While this party girl never made it to a sequel, the home owners lucked out with an easy repair. So easy, they might even consider a whole new garage door. But, of course, spring for a bigger cat door.
Disaster: Broken garage door

  • A replacement garage door opener costs about $300.
  • Installed garage doors range from $550 to $1,650 for a single door, and $800 to $2,500 for a double door.

The Amityville Horror

Bolts of lightning might have blown out the windows of this infamous Amityville residence, but whole-house surge protectors would have kept the lights on and things running smoothly—at least until Father Delaney and the Devil battle it out over who has to pay for window replacements. Spoiler alert: bet on the Devil.
Disaster: Broken windows

  • Replacement windows cost $250 to $800 each.

Interview with the Vampire
 
Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt had a great time slurping the life out of the residents of New Orleans, but you wouldn’t want the same drain on your homestead. That’s why you need to be vigilant about the waste caused by vampire energy, also known as standby power consumption—unneeded electricity usage that sucks up to $100 out of your wallet annually.
Most common culprits are computers, monitors, printers, and stereo subwoofers. Try plugging devices into a power strip and get in the habit of turning them all off at once. Or try a “smart” power strip that senses when you’ve shut off your computer and cuts the juice. It works much better than garlic.
Disaster: Energy drain

  • Power strips are $10 each
  • “Smart” power strips cost $30

Thriller video
 
When Michael Jackson and his zombie buddies broke into an old house to terrify his girlfriend, costly damage ensues—destruction that could have been avoided if only the undead had turned the doorknob.
Unfortunately, zombies aren’t too dexterous, and the hapless home owners got stuck with the cost of a new steel exterior replacement door. If only they had installed a home security system, those zombies would be singing an entirely different tune.
Disaster: Zombie attack

  • A replacement door costs about $1,200.
  • A home security system installation costs $500, with a monthly fee of $35 to $75.

Can God sell my house?

For those who know me personally, they know I say what is on my mind, based more upon logic than emotion, and they know I am a Christian.  I write this knowing those who know me will get it, and hoping that those who don’t know me will not take this blog as offensive to our God.
As a REALTOR, I help two – three dozen families each year with the largest financial decision their family will face.  Even outside of real estate, as a Believer, I hear the comment many times that if God wants it to happen, he will make it happen.  Over my 9 years in real estate, yes, I have clients tell me that if God wants their home sold, then he will make it happen, regardless of my effort, regardless of the market, regardless of lenders, regardless of current price!
As a Believer, I completely know and trust that God can make anything happen.  Anything!  He made this Earth and all it’s resources and inhabitants, including us.  He can do all things – Period!  But God’s abililty to make something happen can’t be questioned when He doesn’t make something happen.  Make sense?  There is a difference between having the ability to do something and actually doing it.
One of God’s greatest characteristics provided to us as humans, is our free will.  We have the free will to make a decision to follow Christ or not, why would we also not have the free will to make decisions that affect real estate, and other factors of our personal lives?  The greatest gift provided to us is eternal life with Christ, yet God doesn’t make us accept Christ and follow His will.  If God will not ‘make’ everyone accept him, and follow his every desire, as a dictator would, why do we sometimes throw it out there that God will make it happen if he wants to?  What is more rewarding?  Someone following you because you make them do it, or someone who chooses, based upon their own free will, to follow you?
Maybe I am what God has sent to you.  To guide you, protect you, and to use my knowledge and expertise for the benefit of your family, based upon God’s desire?  As Believers, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, because we can’t do it on our own.  The Holy Spirit helps us, everyday, with discerning what is the will of God.  Do you believe that God puts people and activities in our path?  Whether to benefit from that interaction, or sometimes to suffer from it!  What about the Good Samaritan?  Should the injured traveler have rejected the services provided by the Samaritan and waited for God to deliver him personally? I can see the injured traveler now, “No thanks, I don’t need your help.  Let the blood continue to flow out.  No, please don’t get me out of the wilderness and into safety.  If God wants to save me he will show up himself.”
I am always nervous when I hear another Believer make comments, and act, on the theory that they can sit back and do nothing and God will make it all happen.  God never tells us to do nothing.  It is actually the opposite.  Throughout the Bible, God’s people were directed to action!  So why then, do Christians not listen to reason, or the current market data, or the professional opinion and direction of those who are possibly put in their path based upon God’s desire to help them?
As a side note, I guess this blog is intended for Christian clients.  I would assume that if you don’t believe in God, then you aren’t making the comments about if it is to be, God will make it happen.
Without a doubt, I truly believe that God has provided me with opportunities in real estate to guide my clients according to His will.  To provide them with honest intent for the betterment of their family, based upon their situation, without the influence of selfish desires on my part.  This doesn’t mean that God can’t make your home sell regardless of price ,or condition, or the local market.  Nor, as a buyer, get the perfect house for the incredibly low ball offer you submitted.  God can do all things regardless of efforts, direction, or influence from a real estate agent, the local market or third party entities such as lenders, appraisers, and buyers.  Trust me, I have seen some homes sell that it had to be God!  There was no logical sense why that home sold!
The good news is that God listens, and there are actions we can take to help our specific real estate needs.

  • Do pray for your house, whether it sells or not. Pray that every person who enters through your doors will sense God and will want to know him more. Pray for God to send buyers who will be blessed by living in your house and who will serve him. Pray that God will direct you to the right place for your own new home.  “Come to my aid, O God. O Lord, make haste to help me.  You promised those who ask, would receive, those who seek, would find, those who knock, would have doors opened to them.  Hear the prayers of your church, grant my requests, and pardon my sins. Amen.”
  • Don’t succumb to superstitions or seek “luck”. These are shortcuts which attempt to manipulate God so you can control your own life. Know that God is on your side as you put him first. That’s a whole lot better than all the luck in the world.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself, and His will, to you.  Pray that God will give you the discernment you need to make educated decisions based upon the knowledge of those supporting you.
  • Don’t be embarrased to ask God for help with your real estate needs.  God is thrilled that you asked for His help to sell your home. “May the Lord grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” – Psalm 20:4.
  • Know that God cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”, NKJV.  Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” NKJV.  3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” NKJV

Certainly there are many factors involved in selling a house such as current market, current pricing, state of the local economy, etc.  But as far as praying for a house to be sold, quickly, at the right price is concerned, it’s all about unwavering faith, that God will provide proper discernment and direction according to His will.  What matters most is having the faith that God hears and answers our prayers according to His will, and it is possible that God’s will is that the house is to sell based upon the current market activity, buyer demand, and professional instruction of a real estate expert.
So I don’t ‘preach’ to just clients, let me direct this to those who are real estate agents.  The above holds true as well.  Your success as an agent is something God could ordain without much action from you, but that is not likely.  Success as a real estate agent depends on your desire and will, and definitely not solely on your skill.  Seek discernment and direction from God on what you need to do to be successful as a real estate agent, not only to support your personal and family needs, but to serve the needs of those you come across and represent.
I had an agent of mine tell me one time that if God wanted her to close transactions, then God would provide her with clients and deliver transactions to her, without her having to do anything.  She is no longer in the business.  Maybe that was God’s will for her to not be in real estate.  Maybe she missed some incredible opportunities desired by God because she wouldn’t put a little desire and will into her own actions.

How accurate is Zillow & Trulia?

Today, many of my clients, sellers and buyer, ‘refer’ to Zillow or Trulia to try and pick up some knowledge about their local real estate market.  I agree that both of these sites provide great information about the buying or selling process, but relying on these two sites for accurate, real time, data on the local real estate market is a mistake.
According to a recent study, 36% of the ‘active’ listings posted on Zillow were actually no longer available.  It was 37% for Trulia.  These properties were either already under contract, sold, expired, or withdrawn and were no longer actively for sale.  For buyers, this means you are excited about a property that is no longer available.  Ever been told you can’t have something you really want?  It sucks!  For sellers, only the atual ‘sold’ price provides a true picture of what buyers, lenders, and appraisers, are giving for the home.  Just because something was listed for $200,000, doesn’t mean it sold, or appraised, for that.
In addition, this study found that Zillow only contained 79% of the local market’s active listings anyway.  It was 81% for Trulia.  Hey buyer!  Do you want to know about all the homes available for sale that match your family’s needs, or just 80% of them?  Don’t worry about the other 20%.  I bet they weren’t that good of a value anyway. Oh yeah, seller, don’t worry about the 20% fewer buyers who know about your house.  I’m sure that won’t affect your sales price or time on market much, well maybe by 20%, but that isn’t much, right? (20% x $200,000 = $40,000 less).  Chump Change!
Because Zillow and Trulia are third party, for profit, companies and not real estate firms or agents, they can not provide all the current, real time, information concerning active and sold homes.  Only a local agent, as a member of the local Multiple Listing Service, can provide real time, accurate date concerning your local market.  And local can mean your specific neighborhood.  Each neighborhood is different in style, in demand, in age, etc and each neighborhood has a different real estate market.  Just because a home only 1 mile away sold for X dollars, doesn’t mean your home will sell for X dollars.
Buying, or selling, a home is a family’s single largest financial decision and has great influence on all aspects of the family and its members.  Before making such a huge decision, I recommend that you get ALL the information….All the CORRECT and ACCURATE information, so you can make an educated decision.  Don’t make a decision based upon speculation, or partial data.  This could cost you greatly in the form of higher days on market, and incorrect ‘most likely sales price’.
 

Home Owners – Free Info to Save Money on Energy

If a home owner has just $1,000 to spend on energy-efficient home improvements, what would you recommend he or she do first?

1.Caulk and seal all penetrations into the home. Whether you hire someone to do a home energy audit, or do it yourself, there are penetrations all around your home.  If you have a crawlspace or basement, check the penetrations from plumbing lines and electricity wires.  You may be shocked at all the gaping holes in your house. Buy a few cans of Great Stuff and take a weekend to go around and seal everything, filling around windows, too. It takes time and it’s a pain, but it works.
2. Hire an HVAC contractor to take a hard look at all your ductwork — are there any ducts leaking that need to be re-sealed? — and give you an HVAC tune-up. You might spend a couple hundred bucks, but you can save significantly depending on how old or out of shape your HVAC system is.  
3. Replace all your lighting with CFLs or LEDs. Most people tell us they’ve replaced all their incandescents, but it just isn’t true. The DOE says that only about 13% of sockets are filled with CFLs right now.
4. Program your thermostat. Most people who buy programmable thermostats don’t program them. If we actually programmed them not to heat the furniture while we’re away, that would be smart. 
5. Reduce the temperature on your water heater. The Department of Energy recommends 120 degrees. If you have a tank water heater, it keeps a certain amount of water hot and ready to go all day, so lowering the temperature reduces the energy you use to heat the water.
If, after you’ve done all those relatively low-cost things, you want to make a little bit more of an investment, consider adding insulation to your house.

Do it Yourself Projects that really add up

According to a recent survey, the below projects are cost-effective improvements that provide a positive Return on Investment toward the value of your home.  These are VERY important steps to take when preparing your home for market.  Even though these are ranked in order of greatest ROI, all of these need to be conducted prior to putting your home on the market for sale.

7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.

A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. An average bath remodel of $16,500 will recoup about 62% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $52,200 job returns about 55.5%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using these smart strategies, which will create a stylish yet budget-friendly bathroom.

1. Stick to a plan

A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun—a process that averages 2 to 3 months—resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
 

2. Keep the same footprint

You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.
Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.
Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.

3. Make lighting a priority

Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60 to 75 watts each, and side fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each, distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.

4. Clear the air

Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.
Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home—mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.

5. Think storage

Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.

  • Think vertically: Upper wall space in a bathroom is often underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into found storage. Spaces between wall studs create attractive and useful niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
  • Think moveable: Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish towel holders. A floor-stand coat rack holds wet towels, bath robes, and clothes.
  • Think utility: Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments provides full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.

6. Contribute sweat equity

Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Some easy DIY projects:

  • Install window and baseboard trim; save $250.
  • Paint walls and trim, 200 sq.ft.; save $200.
  • Install toilet; save $150.
  • Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each.

7. Choose low-cost design for high visual impact

 
A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn’t create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.
Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.

Houses sell in Fall and Winter too!

Every year about this time, I hear the same thing, “Houses don’t sell in the Fall and Winter”, or “We want to take the house off the market until next Spring.”  Sellers seem to think that the buyers disappear during the Fall and Winter months, but this simply isn’t true.
Yes, there are less transactions during the fall and winter months, but selling a home from October – February is still a very common occurrence.  Why?  It really comes down to simple supply and demand.  I know it may be hard for some of you, but try to remember back to your high school or college basic economics class.  Supply and Demand.  A little political side note:  Our country’s economy is based on the supply and demand functionality.  If people want something, they will pay for it, and based upon the supply of inventory, the price will be determined according to the demand.  This principle has stood the test of time, and it will stand during fall and winter for the local real estate market as well.
During the fall and winter months housing inventory is typically lower, which means less competition for the seller during the fall and winter months.  But, during these same months when inventory is lower than any other time of the year, life still happens.  Life changing events continue even when the leaves are changing color, snow is falling, or you are celebrating Christmas.  What are life changing events?  New babies.  Deaths.  Divorce.  Loss of Job.  New Job.  Relocation.
All of these life changing events create demand for housing.  If the demand is there, and the supply is lower than it is possible to not only see shorter days on market, but better pricing as well.  Yep, I said it.  It is possible to sell a home at a higher price and shorter time frame during the fall and winter months.  The typical fall and winter buyer is ready to make a decision, either due to these life changing events, or to get a fresh start by or around the new year.
2011 was a classic example of this for Central Arkansas.  Throughout the Greater Little Rock area, October 2011 thru February 2012 was HOT with real estate activity.  Don’t miss this wonderful time to sell your home!
Here is some research I conducted over 2012, for West Little Rock and Maumelle, to show that the numbers may support a better selling time is during the fall and winter.  In January 2012, there was 1 buyer for every 2 active listings.  In July 2012, there was 1 buyer for every 7 listings!  Inventory, and competition, had increased greatly so there were more sellers fighting for the active buyers.
New Article just published:

Let the Fall Buying, Selling Season Begin

Daily Real Estate News |      Friday, September 28, 2012

The fall housing market isn’t known for being as robust as the spring market, but there are different motivations that tend to attract consumers during this season, experts say.”We’ve observed in seasonal household buyer patterns that there is a higher ratio of first-time buyers and childless couples in the fall,” says Walter Molony, economic issues media manager at the National Association of REALTORS®. “Families with children time their purchase based on school-year considerations, so they peak in the spring and summer.”
According to a recent Real Estate survey, based on 30,000 of broker and agents, about 20 percent of buyers are emotionally driven in the fall to purchase a house so that they can be in a new home by the holidays. Ten percent are motivated by tax benefits.
Sellers in the fall tend to be highly motivated too and face less competition with smaller inventories, says Shaun White, vice president for corporate communications for RE/MAX LLC in Denver, Colo.
“Some sellers will opt to lower their price in the fall because they’re afraid of missing the boat and being stuck trying to sell during the holidays,” says White. “Buyer traffic drops in the fall, too, so buyers may have less competition as well as better prices. You find motivated sellers and motivated buyers in the fall, especially as you get closer to the holidays.”
In some areas of the country, such as in Arizona and Florida, the prime selling season doesn’t even begin until the fall as snowbirds come in from the cooler climates looking for new homes, White says.
Source: “Homebuying: Fall Is the New Spring,” HSH.com (Sept. 26, 2012)

Ways to Become Mortgage-Free Faster

A recent article “Paying Down Your Mortgage: How to Do it the Right Way,” Zillow (Aug. 15, 2012), mentioned two ways for paying down your mortgage.
For many of our parents, and for generations before them, being mortgage free was the ultimate goal as ‘Mom and Dad’ stayed in the same home their entire lives, and well past the typical 30 year mortgage.  Yes, I think all of us dream of having no mortgage payment, but I don’t think today’s buyers dream of staying in the same home for 30+ years.
Even if you don’t stay in the same home happily ever-after, there are three steps you can take to remove your mortgage payment faster.
  1. Get a 15 year mortgage instead of a 30 year:  Yes, this is an option, but it isn’t one that I recommend.  Why?  Because if you secure a 15 year mortgage, you must be able to handle the higher payments each and every month.  Our economy doesn’t need any more foreclosures because you couldn’t keep up with the higher payment after losing your job and having three more kids.  If you go this route, be sure you can handle the payment from now on.  That was slightly sarcastic, because none of us can control the future.  Instead of getting a 15 year mortgage, you can use the following steps to eliminate your 30 year mortgage in about the same time.
  2. Arrange a bi-weekly mortgage payment structure: These bi-weekly payment structures are usually conducted by a third party outside of your mortgage holder.  This concept is simple.  Pay the mortgage partially, even every two weeks, instead of all at once at the end of the month.  By doing so, you benefit in two ways: (1) less interest accrues on your loan and (2) you actually end up making one extra payment per year.   A payment every other week actually secures 26 ‘half’ payment, or 13 months of payments insted of only 12 each year.  This extra payment a year can actually drop your 30 year mortgage to a 22 year mortgage.  Not bad.
  3. Make an extra principal payments: Kind of sounds redundant, but it is different.  Continue with your biweekly payments, but then make ‘extra’ payments when you can to trim down your principal balance on your mortgage.  You can make one big extra payment at the end of the year, make bigger payments each month, or just pay extra when you get a bonus check, or a little padding in your bank account.  All of these reduce the interest burden on your mortgage and will pay the principal down faster.

7 Hot Home Improvement Trends that Make Your Home Work for You

7 Hot Home Improvement Trends that Make Your Home Work for You

Home improvement trends embrace energy efficiency, low maintenance exteriors, and double-duty space.

Trend #1: Maintenance-free siding

We continue to choose maintenance-free siding that lives as long as we do, but with a lot less upkeep. But more and more we’re opting for fiber-cement siding, one of the fastest-growing segments of the siding market. It’s a combination of cement, sand, and cellulosic fibers that looks like wood but won’t rot, combust, or succumb to termites and other wood-boring insects.  At $5 to $9 per sq. ft., installed, fiber-cement siding is more expensive than paint-grade wood, vinyl, and aluminum siding. It returns 78% of investment, the highest return of any upscale project on Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report.  Maintenance is limited to a cleaning and some caulking each spring. Repaint every 7 to 15 years. Wood requires repainting every 4 to 7 years.

Trend #2: Convertible spaces

Forget “museum rooms” we use twice a year (dining rooms and living rooms) and embrace convertible spaces that change with our whims.  Foldaway walls turn a private study into an easy-flow party space. Walls can consist of fancy, glass panels ($600 to $1,600 per linear ft., depending on the system); or they can be simple vinyl-covered accordions  ($1,230 for 7 ft. by 10 ft.). PortablePartions.com sells walls on wheels ($775 for approximately 7 ft. by 7 ft.).  A Murphy bed pulls down from an armoire-looking wall unit and turns any room into a guest room. Prices, including installation and cabinetry, range from $2,000 (twin with main cabinet) to more than $5,000 (California king with main and side units). Just search online for sellers.   And don’t forget area rugs that easily define, and redefine, open spaces.

Trend #3: A laundry room of your own

Humankind advanced when the laundry room arose from the basement to a louvered closet on the second floor where clothes live. Now, we’re taking another step forward by granting washday a room of its own.  If you’re thinking of remodeling, turn a mudroom or extra bedroom into a dedicated laundry room big enough to house the washer and dryer, hang hand-washables, and store bulk boxes of detergent.  Look for spaces that already have plumbing hookups or are adjacent to rooms with running water to save on plumbing costs.

Trend #4: Souped-up kitchens

Although houses are trending smaller, kitchens are getting bigger, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey.
Kitchen remodels open the space, perhaps incorporating lonely dining rooms, and feature recycling centers, large pantries, and recharging stations.
Oversized and high-priced commercial appliances—did we ever fire up six burners at once?—are yielding to family-sized, mid-range models that recover at least one cabinet for storage.  Since the entire family now helps prepare dinner (in your dreams), double prep sinks have evolved into dual-prep islands with lots of counter space and pull-out drawers.

Trend #5: Energy diets

We’re wrestling with an energy disorder: We’re binging on electronics—cell phones, iPads, Blackberries, laptops–then crash dieting by installing LED fixtures and turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.  Are we ahead of the energy game? Only the energy monitors and meters know for sure.  These new tracking devices can gauge electricity usage of individual electronics ($20 to $30) or monitor whole house energy ($100 to $250). The TED 5000 Energy Monitor ($240) supplies real-time feedback that you can view remotely and graph by the second, minute, hour, day, and month.

Trend #6: Love that storage

As we bow to the new god of declutter, storage has become the holy grail.  We’re not talking about more baskets we can trip over in the night; we’re imagining and discovering built-in storage in unlikely spaces–under stairs, over doors, beneath floors.  Under-appreciated nooks that once displayed antique desks are growing into built-ins for books and collections. Slap on some doors, and you can hide office supplies and buckets of Legos.  Giant master suites, with floor space to land a 747, are being divided to conquer clutter with more walk-in closets.

Trend #7: Home offices come out of the closet

Flexible work schedules, mobile communications, and entrepreneurial zeal are relocating us from the office downtown to home.  Laptops and wireless connections let us telecommute from anywhere in the house, but we still want a dedicated space (preferably with a door) for files, supplies, and printers.
Spare bedrooms are becoming home offices and family room niches are morphing into working nooks. After a weekend of de-cluttering, basements and attics are reborn as work centers.